Many thanks to all who were able to give oral testimony at the December 20th social studies standards hearing. The large hearing room at the Minnesota Department of Education building was nearly full. The vast majority of testifiers were overwhelmingly opposed to the new standards. Witnesses were armed with facts and passionate eloquence. Department officials seemed surprised and a little dismayed at the level, intensity and detail of the opposition. Although we do not have all the testimony that was presented, we were able to obtain some of it from those that graciously provided it. See below for links and quotes from some of this excellent testimony. In addition, negative comments about the standards are coming in from several important groups and individuals. The judge has granted the full 20 days period for written comments, meaning the record will close on January 9th. Details for submitting written comments may be found here. If you cannot do written comments, we will have more information about a petition just after Christmas. Thank you for your support! May all of the joys and blessings of Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year come to you and yours.
Witnesses against the standards included parents, grandparents, business owners, a former citizen of communist Poland, two college professors, a former AP biology teacher, and two legislators. Education Liberty Watch’s testimony was delivered by attorney Marjorie Holsten.
In addition, there have been important comments from the Minnesota House Republican leadership, new commentary from Dr. John Fonte of the Hudson Institute as we previously mentioned, and important testimony from the American Principles Project about the link of these social studies to the Common Core English standards. All of these are also quoted and linked below.
As witnessed by the length of time it has taken to get out this report, we know it is very busy this time of year. To that end, we hope to introduce some sort of petition mechanism to help you weigh in against these awful standards and still spend this important time with your family and friends. More news will be forthcoming.
Finally, we do know that it is a busy time of year and this is a bad economy, but there are monetary costs to the work that we do. Any tax deductible financial help that can be directed to Education Liberty Watch as you consider your year end giving so that we may continue to stand for academic excellence, perpetuating our republic and protecting the rights of parents to raise their children would be most appreciated.
ORAL TESTIMONY QUOTES AND LINKS:
“Based on the forgoing as well as the more detailed information we will submit, we believe that for the sake of academic rigor, the cultural literacy and ability of Minnesota students to function as citizens able to maintain the freedoms of our republic, the fulfillment of legislative intent, and state autonomy, that these standards should be rejected or at least significantly modified and that the 2004 standards should be kept until that happens. Thank you.”
“Finally as a newly elected legislator about to be sworn in for the first time, it pains me to see violations of legislative intent, as well as how state sovereignty is being violated in education both by the mandates of No Child Left Behind and the creeping imposition of a national curriculum via the linking of the Common Core English standards to the social studies standards.”
Thank you for the opportunity to address these important issues.
It seems impossible to satisfy all the stakeholders. Some testimony heard today is from special interests seeking to add “one more thing” to the standard, believing that if not in the standard, it won’t be taught. Those who actually have to do the teaching complain that there is far too much in the standard to do a decent job of covering the material. I respect the 40 people and their efforts, but their job is very difficult.
I’d like to step back and ask a vital question. Why do we teach “social studies” – civics, geography, economics and history? What is the purpose?
We teach our children these things in order to explain and inculcate the intellectual and ideological foundations on which our culture rests.
History is especially important because it gives to our young the wisdom of human experience. It tells where we’ve been, and how we came to be where we are, not just physically, but intellectually and spiritually. It tells our students what has worked, and what failed. It inspires them with the amazing accomplishments of those who went before us, and cautions them against repeating old mistakes. It provides perspective to help put new events in their proper place. History reminds us that deceptively simple solutions to complex problems have been tried before, and are almost always wrong.
Civics is basic training in citizenship. Without instruction in how our republic works, and full understanding of what can go wrong, our republic will wither into the certain tyranny that marks the rest of human history. Citizens need to understand their vital role. More importantly, they need motivation — reasons to care about doing the hard work of citizenship.
So, I come to this hearing asking a question: Do these proposed new standards enhance the effort to teach our children these absolutely essential things?
Unfortunately, the answer appears to be an emphatic “no”.
Do not misunderstand. I recognize and appreciate all the work that has gone into these standards, and realize that the authors are every bit as dedicated to producing a good outcome as I am. There is much to like in these new standards, but fatal flaws demand correction.
Education Liberty Watch Oral Testimony Regarding the 2011 Social Studies Academic Standards
Judge Barbara Nielson
Administrative Hearing – December 20, 2012
Good morning Your Honor. My name is Marjorie Holsten and I am here on behalf of Education Liberty Watch as an attorney, mother, and homeschool teacher of the Constitution to present our concerns about the new social studies standards. My remarks today will be in summary form and then we will submit detailed written testimony with quotes and references before the hearing record closes.
We have one request from today’s hearing:
We oppose the rule in its entirety and would therefore ask that either the 2004 standards would remain in effect at least until proper revisions are made, or permanently
Our concerns are fall into several categories.
1. Minnesota statute, 120B.02, subd, (b)(1) states that, “the rule is intended to raise academic expectations for students, teachers, and schools.” We would argue and our documentation will show that the academic rigor of these standards has decreased instead of increased compared to 2004 and to other sets of exemplary state standards that the committee chose to review. Therefore, the 2011 standards are in violation of legislative intent.
2. As stated in Minnesota statute 120B.03 and explained on page 30 of the SONAR, the standards by law are to “identify the academic knowledge and skills that prepare students for postsecondary education, work and civic life in the twenty-first century.” This new version of the standards, because of its omissions and changes in emphasis will not accomplish that goal.
3. The SONAR fails to mention the statutory requirement that the standards “be consistent with the Constitutions of the United States and the state of Minnesota.” (120B.021, Subd. 2b3). The focus on globalization and reliance of the committee and the SONAR on a document titled “Preparing Citizens for a Global Community” and making the statement on page 35, “Several leading social studies sources support the need for students to develop skills to become effective global citizens,” seems to be emphasizing loyalty to entities and governance outside of the US and is inconsistent with the US Constitution.
4. There is an overly expansive interpretation of and reliance on No Child Left Behind and the possibility of losing federal funding for not having social studies standards in the SONAR:
a. The SONAR states, “The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to have academic standards in subjects determined by the state. Minnesota statutes section 120B.021, subd. 1, requires academic standards in social studies, thus federal funding is at risk if the state does not enact revised academic social studies standards.”
b. However, the SONAR fails to mention that a mere paragraph later in MN Statute 120B.021, subd. 1 states, “For purposes of applicable federal law, the academic standards for language arts, mathematics, and science apply to all public school students…” Social studies is not mentioned.
c. The SONAR quotes Section 1111(g)(1) of NCLB to back up its claim which says:
If a State fails to meet the deadlines established by the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 (or under any waiver granted by the Secretary or under any compliance agreement with the Secretary) for demonstrating that the State has in place challenging academic content standards and student achievement standards, and a system for measuring and monitoring adequate yearly progress, the Secretary shall withhold 25 percent of the funds that would otherwise be available to the State for State administration and activities under this part in each year until the Secretary determines that the State meets those requirements. (Emphasis added)
There is no system for measuring adequate yearly progress in social studies in Minnesota via assessment and in fact, MN statute 120B.130, subd 1a forbids it:
“The commissioner must not develop statewide assessments for academic standards in social studies, health and physical education, and the arts.”
None of Section 1111 of NCLB mentions social studies at all, therefore it is highly unlikely that the accountability penalty would apply if states do not have social studies standards. The U.S. Department of Education has never penalized a state for not having social studies standards and given the presence of the conditional waivers granted under the Obama administration is highly unlikely to deal with social studies at all.
d. The SONAR also claims on page 20 that the component subjects of social studies are listed as “core academic subjects “in Sec. 9101 of NCLB and are therefore required in sec. 1111, but we believe that the term “core academic subjects” is not found at all in sec. 1111 and is discussed much later in the bill in sections having to do with teacher training and evaluations, etc.
5. Linking the social studies standards to the Common Core Standards, as explained on page 28 of the SONAR is problematic because in the opinion of eminent attorneys and former federal education officials, the standards are believed to be in violation of at least three federal statutes that prohibit interference by the federal government in academic curriculum or content :
a. The General Education Provisions Act
b. .The Department of Education Organization Act and
c. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
Therefore, because the illegal, unconstitutional and federally promoted Common Core ELA standards are now affecting social studies and will eventually affect other subjects, our state is losing its autonomy to determine and control its own standards in multiple subjects when the Department and other proponents assured the public and policy makers that the state was accepting only the English standards.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee – My name is Karen Effrem, and I am here on behalf of Education Liberty Watch.
Despite our usual concerns about the data collection and parental autonomy in home visiting programs, we want to thank Rep. Loon for bringing forth this bill. We enthusiastically support a program that is voluntary, private, free-market, faith and home based, literacy focused, and does not require the top-down, one size fits all, government mandated program or curriculum standards without statutory authority.
This program is in stark contrast to the Department’s implementation plan for the early childhood scholarships that were funded to the tune of $4 million very precious taxpayer dollars last session. Education Liberty wishes to thank chairman Garofalo and this committee for exercising their proper oversight authority via the hearing held here on January 26th. We join you in the deep concern that the Department is unilaterally changing the implementation of those scholarships as passed by the legislature from making it a first come, first served to requiring scholarship recipients to attend a three or four star rated program under the Parent Aware quality rating system with all of its problems that this legislature explicitly refused last year.
A strong related concern for us is that according to Department documents such as the Race to the Top application,” to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.” Even if these standards were perfectly academic and non-controversial, which they are not, as our handouts show, the imposition of one top-down, government mandated set of standards on all programs – public, private or religious who “volunteer” for this rating system cannot be allowed to stand.
Again, we thank Rep. Loon for authoring this bill and look forward to this committee asserting its proper authority under separation of powers doctrine, as well as protecting parental and provider authority and autonomy.
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